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Wellbeing Focus Driving Blue River Dairy Export Success

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Combining a fantastic company culture with phenomenal business growth is proving a winner for Invercargill-based nutritional formula exporter Blue River Dairy.

They won the Healthy Families Invercargill Workplace Wellbeing Award at the Westpac Southland Business Excellence Awards on September 29.

Last month in Dunedin, they also won the Dunedin and Lower South Island awards for Fastest Growing Manufacturing Business and Fastest Growing Exporter at the 2019 Deloitte Fast 50 index regional awards.

The company, which manufactures sheep, cow and goat milk nutritional formulas, now lines up against other regional winners at the Festival of Growth on November 13 to find out where it ranks nationally.

Blue River Dairy general manager Robert Boekhout said they were quietly confident of another great result at the national event.

The wellbeing award win was recognition that Blue River Dairy had a very diverse workforce and staff had built a positive, inclusive and caring culture, he said.

“We’ve heard people talk about us as the best place to work in Southland, which is a great reflection of the hard work and commitment our team has put into integrating our wellbeing intiatives into the everyday.”

Achieving challenging production targets in a dynamic business where change was a constant required great staff, Boekhout said.

“Every day is busy. Every day is fast. We work in a fast-paced industry, and that’s why staff wellbeing is so important. You’ve got to get that right.”

Blue River Dairy’s staff retention was “stunning”, with just two staff out of 140 leaving the company in the past year to take up new jobs within the Southland region.

Production has increased rapidly, from 400,000 cans of infant formula in the 2016 year, to producing more than a million cans a month during 2019.

Blue River Dairy people and administration manager Abbigail Surridge said the company had implemented a range of workplace wellbeing practices, from small steps such as a pat on the back and kind words, through to larger initiatives like a Baby Care Programme, an employee benefit focused on financially assisting staff with childcare costs.

The company also provided a free meal each day for staff, in recognition that the costs of living a healthy lifestyle were increasing, she said.

An ‘employee of the month’ scheme and an annual Awards Dinner – with peer nominated awards based on leadership, achievement, and humorous accomplishments – were among a host of other initiatives, Surridge said.

“Most of our initaitives come from our staff, we get great input from them through feedback, suggestions, and our employee-driven Wellbeing Committee.”

Winning the wellbeing award was amazing validation for the effort everyone had put in, she said.

“I think it’s huge. We do a lot of work internally to create a caring and family focussed culture, but seeing that recognised outside, professionally, is huge,” Surridge said.

Last year, the company was crowned New Zealand’s Fastest Growing Exporter in the Deloitte Fast 50, with an overall revenue growth rate of 938 per cent during the past two years. They also won Fastest Growing Agribusiness and 4th Fastest Growing Company overall.

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